October Part II: What is 'platform'?

plus the Boston Book Fest, NaNoWriMo resources, industry news, & a hint of fennel

Greetings writers!

This past weekend I taught “Marketing and Platform Building for Writers — Whether You’re Published or Not” at GrubStreet Inc., which is one of my favorite courses to teach. I love working with writers to unpack the “black box” of book marketing so they can advocate for themselves in the marketplace — with publishers, media outlets, marketing partners, etc.

This session’s class had a large number of non-fiction writers. I think the key reason was that word ‘platform’ which strikes existential dread into every writer’s heart, but especially those whose success seems so reliant on it. ‘Platform’ is what every agent/editor/publisher seems to be looking for in a new non-fiction writer, but what does ‘platform’ even mean?

Jane Friedman, who’s tireless work for writers make her an essential resource, defines platform simply as: an ability to sell books because of who you are or who you can reach. In my class, we settled on this: platform is an audience that is actively engaged with your expertise and/or the value of your work. I use that word ‘engaged’ because that’s how one develops a platform to begin with: by engaging with readers, fans, other writers, experts, media, influencers, and so forth.

This doesn’t happen overnight, and it doesn’t happen by simply signing up for Twitter and calling it a day. It happens by consistent, authentic, engagement across a number of different channels, in-person and virtually.

Top tips to starting up a platform from scratch? Pick forms of engagement that interest and excite you. Think deeply about your audience and where to find/engage with them. Start locally. Meet other writers and readers. Collaborate, cross-pollinate. Be open to new opportunities. And most of all, keep writing. Your words are what people are going to keep coming back for.

Upcoming Seminars

The events marked with ** require registration and usually fill up! And for the first time ever, I’m offering one online. Tune in from the comfort of your own home!

Not available these dates? Connect with me for one-on-one coaching that fits your schedule!

Book a marketing consult today!

BOSTONIANS: This weekend (Oct. 19 - 20) is the Boston Book Festival, the pre-eminent literary festival in New England. This is an excellent opportunity to meet and support local readers, writers, librarians, booksellers, publishers, and more. Remember how I mentioned engagement above? Think of this as a master class in both observing other people’s platforms and expanding your own. There are sessions specifically for writers, writer-driven UnBound sessions, and a rich schedule of readings/panels.

Want to know what goes into planning and marketing a literary festival? Jessica Kent at Boston Book Blog has the scoop with this in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at BBF.
Bonus: Boston Book Blog is an excellent resource for discovering all the Boston-area literary happenings. I particularly love their daily book event Twitter threads.

Writing/Marketing Resources: the NaNoWriMo edition!

It’s almost November which means… National Novel Writing Month! During “NaNoWriMo” writers from around the world take on the challenge of writing 50,000 words in 30 days while tracking their word count, cheering on others, and giving/receiving moral support. Whether or not you decide to participate, you can check out their pep talks from famous authors, prep tools and writing exercises, Twitter “writing sprints”, and local “write-ins”.

How do you keep up your marketing if you’re disappearing to pound out a new novel? Novel Marketing Podcast has a great, concise episode on putting your marketing on ‘autopilot’ during NaNoWriMo so that you can focus on your 50k words.

In honor of NaNoWriMo, this month’s StoryBundle is chocked full of writing and productivity boosting books at whatever price works for you. Pay what you can and get access to up to 13 e-books and a video lecture. StoryBundle is a great way to get introduced to new authors while supporting them in the process.

Industry News

Suzanne Collins’s new Hunger Games prequel has a name and a cover! The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes will release on May 19, 2020. In their original press release, Scholastic and Collins describe the inspiration for the new book.

Do pitch contests really help writers? #DVPit is a Twitter pitch contest for diverse voices that is striving (and succeeding) to change the face of publishing, as writer Adiba Jaigirdar explains. #DVPit will next be held on October 28th & 29th.

The finalists for the National Book Award have been announced! Check out these NPR reviews/interviews with some of the finalists. The winners will be announced on November 20th.

The judges of the Booker Prize broke the rules for two rule-breaking books: Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments and Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other are sharing the 2019 Booker Prize for Fiction. In a powerful and important first for the award, Evaristo is the first black woman to have won the Booker:

Peter Florence, chair of this year’s panel, explains the judges’ decision:


After a big meal, I find a hot cup of soothing tea helps settle the stomach. My favorite is Fennel Spice from Oregon (Labrang) Tea Trader’s, who have a great selection of organic and fair trade teas (as well as several grown locally in the Pacific Northwest!) The combination of the sweet fennel, cloves, and cardamom with a kick of peppercorns makes for a subtle but stimulating cup.

Don’t you love this mug by Obvious State?? You’ll see me continue to feature their awesome work as I can’t get enough of it.

Congrats to Lisa Rogers, educator and author of 16 Words: William Carlos Williams and "The Red Wheelbarrow", winner of last month’s subscriber giveaway!

Let me know about upcoming events, marketing campaigns, and projects so I can help signal boost!

Happy writing!

Writer & Marketing Coach
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Allison has happily made books her life’s work. She spent four years marketing and publicizing academic titles at The MIT Press before she went to work for Wellesley Books as a children’s bookseller and event coordinator. She is now living her dream: putting her B.A. in Creative Writing to good use as a novelist and as a writing/marketing coach for authors. She enjoys science fiction, cupcakes, and a hot cup of tea.